Talking about money sucks. It’s never an easy topic of conversation.
Money is intimidating, and according to some, the topic is just not part of polite society. The Wall Street Journal found that 81% of millennials live with debt (student loans, car loans, credit cards, medical debt, and more). According to Forbes, student loan debt among millennials is in the trillions. Yes, trillions.
Understanding your finances can be scary, but it does not have to be. Knowing you are not alone is the first step toward financial recovery.
Do not let the lavish lifestyles detailed on social media fool you; everyone battles financial demons. Maria Bamford of “Lady Dynamite” fame believes that everyone should talk about money. Bamford opened up to credit.com about her financial problems. At one point, Bamford owed $5,000 in medical bills, her credit score was below 500, and creditors hounded her. Does that sound eerily familiar?
Rather than beat yourself up about being the broke friend, think about your long-term “financial recovery.” It costs ZERO dollars for you to sit down with your finances and figure out how to chart a path to success. Figure out your base level of income (the exact amount you need in order to pay all of your bills, including food) and look at your debt to income ratio. If that number makes your skin crawl, contact a student loan refinance organization so that you can make payments that not only go against your balance but your interest.
Credit cards are the actual devil. Avoid them at all costs while you are in recovery. Nothing good comes from having a card with a 25% interest rate, despite the great rewards the card may boast. Spending several hundred dollars at Banana Republic so that you can get $10 off a pair of slacks is not worth it.
Do you know your financial narrative? Vlogger Gabby Dunn spoke to a financial psychologist on her podcast “Bad with Money.” If you think about money from a “Well, I might get hit by a bus tomorrow so I need these shoes today,” you are setting yourself up for failure. The way that you talk to yourself about money sets the tone for how you spend your money.
Dunn found that more people were willing to talk about their favorite sex position than how much money was in their bank account. That is insane! Knowing what is in your bank account is the first step in resetting your financial narrative. Sitting down with your debt can be intimidating but think about where you want to be in twenty years and how managing your money is the only way you will be able to retire to Thailand at 35.
Where do you go from here? Get in the habit of looking at your bank account every day. Open up a 401k or IRA so that you can save for your future without having to worry about remembering to save. Create a budget. Some people like Mint.com and other prefer to write everything down. Find a method that works for you and that keeps you financially honest. Most Americans do not have $1,000 in their savings. Give yourself a savings goal and stick to it. Talk to your friends about money since it is clear that all of us are in the same boat when it comes to debt. If you blow your budget, it is not the end of the world and you are not a terrible person.
Are there easy ways to give your bank account some love? Absolutely. Plan your meals. Talk to your friends about having a girl’s night in rather than multiple happy hours during the week. Do laundry at a friend’s house so you can save a few bucks from the laundromat. If spending money is something that you find yourself doing compulsively, take some time to unpack that. Know when your bills are due and plan accordingly. Understanding debt is only as bad as you let it be.
About The Author
Brooke is a 30 something, hell bent on finishing her book and conquering the world. She currently lives in South Philadelphia, and tweets @thewordsisaid.